The combination of Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer delivered pole for the Six Hours of Sao Paulo to the #1 Audi R-18 e-tron quattro.
The pair ensured that they will lead the field to the start of the race, the fourth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
After the return to a ‘traditional’ qualifying format for the 24 Hours of Le Mans the WEC reverted to the system of a four lap average – taken from the best two times from two drivers in each car – setting the grid. Fassler was the first man in the #1 for the reigning WEC champions and a pair of laps in the 1:20 bracket around the 4.3km track established the #1 as provisional pole sitter before Treluyer took over driving duties.
The Frenchman was slower getting up to speed than his Swiss co-driver, allowing the #2 Audi qualified first by Loic Duval, then Tom Kristensen to move into provisional pole before returning to the pits after Kristensen had completed only four laps, harmlessly spinning at the Senna-S on his final lap. In the time left in the session Treluyer was able to find crucial time around the Interlagos time, setting his best lap on his fourth flying lap of the session to move the #1 car’s average time beneath that of Duval and Kristensen.
The Toyota TS030 – qualified by Sebastien Buemi and Anthony Davidson – remained close to the two Audis in terms of lap time, but was never able to truly challenge a repeat their maiden pole position last year. Davidson was able to match the pace of the Audi pair, both of times that counted toward the qualifying result fitting in between the times of the Audi drivers, leaving the car with a four lap average just three tenths slower than the pole sitting time.
Davidson remained in the car even once he had returned to the pits, threatening a return to track. However, following bizarre red flag with three minutes left in the session after a flag hanging from a balloon launched from outside the track landed on the front straight there was no further action.
Two rapid flying laps from Mike Conway set-up LMP2 pole position for the G-Drive Racing Oreca-Nissan. He needed only two laps to post the two times needed, with an average time a half second better than anyone else in the class could muster.
John Martin, the second man in the #26 car needed only defend the lead Conway had given him, but the Australian too was quick, his two laps faster than any of the other second driver in the class to put the car, which will also be driven by Roman Rusinov in the race, on pole by 0.475 seconds over the similar Pecom Racing car qualified by Nicolas Minassian and Pierre Kaffer.
Bertrand Baguette and Martin Plowman together qualified OAK Racing’s #35 Morgan-Nissan third in class.
In contrast to the LMP2 battle it was the second drivers that made the difference in the LMGTE classes.
Based solely on the first driver’s laps the #98 Aston Martin Racing entry would have languished well down the time sheets in LMGTE Pro. However, once Richie Stanaway had replaced Pedro Lamy behind the wheel the car came alive. With three laps, including one in a time of 1:32.992 that made him the only GT driver to dip beneath 1:33 in the session Stanaway stole pole position. Such was his speed over the other second drivers that only Darren Turner was able to lap within half a second of Stanaway’s quickest on his way to taking third in class in the #97.
Splitting the two V8 Vantages on the grid will be the #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey car qualified by Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz. Lieb was the fastest of the first drivers in the car, though the short Interlagos lap gave teams enough time in the session to mean that he was completing his laps at the same time Stanaway was storming to pole. Leitz, running later in the session was unable to match his co-driver, the Le Mans winners slipping to second in class.
Kamui Kobayashi and Toni Vilander were the best Ferrari in class in fourth fastest, fractionally faster than their AF Corse teammates Gimmi Bruni and Giancarlo Fisichella.
AF Corse appeared to have taken pole position in LMGTE Am, thanks to Marco Cioci and Matt Griffin. However, their #61 458 failed scrutineering following the session, handing pole position to the #95 Aston Martin qualified by Nicki Thiim and Christoffer Nygaard.
Based on his two best laps Thiim was fractionally slower than Davide Rigon, the first man in the 8Star Motorsports Ferrari that would be promoted to second in class but it was Nygaard’s edge over Rui Aguas in the Ferrari that turned the deficit into the 0.031 seconds that split the two team’s four lap average times and would – eventually – result in the pole position.
Stuart Hall and Jamie Campbell–Walter – mathematically the most consistent pair in class during the session – will start from third in class in the #96 Aston Martin.
The Six Hours of Sao Paulo begins at 12 noon local time, 4pm UK time.